Is it the end for plastic straws?

In a bid to help cut down pollution in the world's oceans, the UK government has pledged to introduce new controls for all single-use plastic items in 2020. The measures will cover plastic straws, as well as plastic drink stirrers and cotton buds, and they will apply to England from April 2020. The only product which will be completely banned from sale is plastic drink stirrers, since 316 million are currently used every single year. The decision has been met with praise from environmental groups, but there is still lots that needs to be done.

Biodegradable straws
Biodegradable straws

What will happen with plastic straws?

The government's announcement referred to a ban on the supply of plastic straws, but the real aim is to restrict their availability. No shops will be allowed to sell the straws, including supermarkets, but registered pharmacies will be able to sell them. This is because it has been pointed out that straws are an essential part of daily life for many disabled people, and a total ban could put their health at risk.

The announcement also details that restaurants and bars will not be permitted to have plastic straws on display, and will only provide them if people actually ask.

Why the new measures?

It has been nearly two years since David Attenborough's Blue Planet II documentary gave us a powerful depiction of the damage single-use plastic items are doing to the environment. At the time, the Environment Secretary described his horror at the image of marine life being harmed by plastic and initiated a series of consultations on measures to curb many single-use plastic items. These items are used for just a few minutes, but take hundreds of years to biodegrade.

The European Union has formally adopted a plan to ban a more substantial list of items by 2021, including plastic straws, plastic plates and plastic cutlery. Again, environmental groups are pleased with these announcements but insist it is just the tip of the iceberg compared to what needs to be done. The World Wildlife Fund has called for a ban on all avoidable single-use plastic by 2025, and many restaurants and bars are already taking steps to introduce more biodegradable alternatives at their establishments.

What's the alternative?

There are compostable plastic straws that can be used as a viable alternative to the harmful plastic straws that we are familiar with. Paper straws are, of course, a biodegradable option, but they tend to lose integrity and even disintegrate while you are using them. The compostable plastic straws are made from Polyactic Acid (PLA), which is derived from renewable resources like corn starch and sugar cane.

Compostable straws

Paper straws will certainly have their place, of course. They are cheaper to produce and, therefore, to buy than PLA ones, and are fine for use with certain drinks, including:

  • Fizzy drinks
  • Juice
  • Some cocktails

However, the loss of integrity from some drinks passing through the straws will be too much. It is recommended that you use biodegradable straws not paper for drinks like:

  • Milkshakes
  • Frozen cocktails
  • Slushies

Where to find the best biodegradable straws

Vegware Straws
Vegware Straws

One of the key things will be for companies to offer the right straws for the right drink. This will help to keep customer satisfaction high, and ensure people don't start mourning the loss of disposable plastic straws. Vegware supplies a range of compostable straws made from PLA that can be purchased through Cooksmill. If you are looking to purchase biodegradable straws wholesale UK businesses won't find a better supply of quality products that are fully biodegradable.

Vegware is an innovative and visionary brand specialising in the production of plant-based, compostable packaging for the foodservice industry. Straws are just one of the products available; you can also get hot and cold drink cups, food containers and takeaway boxes made entirely from renewable, low-carbon or recycled materials, all of which can be composted along with food waste where accepted.

Aarti Arora-McLean, Vegware Brand Communications Lead comments “Vegware’s PLA straws come in a variety of sizes from highball and standard to jumbo and even jumbissimo! Whether your seeking straws for cocktails, juices and sodas, smoothies or thick milkshakes, there is something for everyone. They’re also made from plant-based PLA, a renewable alternative to conventional plastic, and can be commercially composted with drinks residue where accepted.“

The actions being taken by UK governments and the EU are a huge step in the right direction for helping to reduce our detrimental impact on the environment. As you can imagine, this is a mission that's very close to the hearts of everyone at Vegware, who fully intend to continue leading the way in the development of green products for the foodservice industry.

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